Q&A With Daniel Pink: Upserve Your Customer and Build Your Business

In this exclusive interview, we talk with business strategist, speaker and New York Times bestselling author Daniel H. Pink, about the importance of "upserving" customers and the importance of accountability and personalization.

Q: In your latest book, To Sell is Human, you talk about how it is more effective to "upserve" your customers rather than "upselling." Can you describe the difference and how "upserving" a customer can assist in cultivating client relationships, especially for sales professionals in services businesses who manage multiple clients?

Daniel Pink: I find the whole notion of "upselling" pretty hideous. It puts the seller's interests far ahead of the buyer's -- and I have yet to find any individual, anywhere in the world who wants to be uphold. Upserving, as I call it, is a better alternative. It means doing more for your customer or prospect than he expects or you initially intended -- sometimes taking the extra steps to transform a mundane transaction into memorable experience or a source of insights.The advantage of upserving is that it's both the right thing to do and a way to build the relationships and reputation that can enhance future success. In today's world, when buyers and sellers are far more evenly matched than ever, the approach should be to serve first and sell next.

sell_humanQ: In To Sell is Human you discuss the importance of "finding the one percent" and how it can become the hallmark of a good business approach. Can you define what you mean by the "one percent"? How can this approach improve focus and execution?

Daniel Pink: This is a lesson I learned from a professor in law school. He urged us not to get lost in the weedy details of a subject, but instead to focus on the "one percent" - the essence of what we were studying. This is one key to the quality of clarity that I wrote about in the book. If you're selling something -- your product, your idea, your cause -- know your material deeply. But also be sure you can answer the one-percent question. Why is what you're offering important? Why does it matter? How does it change a person's life or a company's future? If you can answer those questions, the sale often takes care of itself.

Q: You mentioned that personalization and accountability is crucial to success in sales, as well as in other customer-facing roles. Can you describe why each is so important in client relations?

Daniel Pink: Personalization is important largely because purely transactional have lower margins and increasingly are heading online. As a result, the skill of solving existing problems matters less than the skill of identifying hidden problems -- and that, in turn, requires some degree of customization. Accountability matters because it's essential both to company performance and, in ways that surprise many, to individual satisfaction. Making progress and achieving our goals is something that's inherently satisfying.